Democratic Unity Night Gets Off to a Rocky Start

By
US-VOTE-DEMOCRATS-CONVENTION
Not quite ready to come together.Photo: SAUL LOEB

As Eric Levitz noted, Bernie Sanders drew some loud boos in a meeting this afternoon with “his” delegates by stressing the importance of electing Hillary Clinton as president. Nancy Pelosi got hassled in a meeting of the California delegation by Bernie supporters as well. And Debbie Wasserman Schultz got booed in a meeting of her own Florida delegation, even though her resignation as DNC chair had already been announced, leading to the decision to hustle her out of town instead of letting her gavel in the convention before fading away.

The Sanders fury has now spilled over into the actual convention, as mentions of Hillary Clinton from the podium in what is normally a meaningless opening afternoon session were greeted with boos and chants of “Bernie, Bernie.” Sanders himself has texted his supporters asking them “as a personal favor” not to indulge in any protests on the floor. Reflecting a growing media preoccupation, Chuck Todd’s saying the dissension is worse than anything he saw in Cleveland; 1968 analogies are flying around.

The big and obvious question now is whether the cavalcade of progressive speakers scheduled for the first night of the convention — Elizabeth Warren, three prominent Sanders supporters (Senator Jeff Merkley and Representatives Raúl Grijalva and Keith Ellison), and Sanders himself — can quell the storm, or if they, too, will get shouted down for saying nice things about Clinton.

This atmosphere was obviously fed by the DNC email hack, which no one this side of Russia could have anticipated. But you do have to wonder what’s really going on among the People of the Bern (recognizing they have their own differences of opinion), and whether it will quickly, well, burn itself out. Do the “We Want Bernie” chants of those booing Bernie for wanting to move on to the Trump–Clinton challenge mean some of them think (as one delegate interviewed on the floor indicated) there’s still some slim, and perhaps even unarticulated, hope of a different outcome to the convention? That’s hard to imagine for us political writers who thought the nomination race ended quite some time ago, but delegates at the heart of what many sincerely believe to be a movement destined for ultimate success may feel otherwise.

As for the media fanning this particular wildfire, the story places coverage into the safe territory of equivalence between the two parties, with Cruz dissidents and Sanders dissidents offering the same sort of not-so-quiet protests. The thing is, in Cleveland it was the nomination-contest winners of Team Trump who were booing the recalcitrant loser, Ted Cruz. If things play out as looks likely right now, you aren’t going to hear any Hillary Clinton delegates booing Bernie Sanders, who has, of course, already endorsed the presumptive nominee. So, even as they are offered as the same story, it’s a different dynamic altogether.